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Social ministers ask Congress to consider families.

WASHINGTON - More than 200 Catholic social ministry leaders from throughout the United States converged on Capitol Hill recently with a mandate for legislators to make children and families a top priority in budget decisions.

The lobbying effort was part of the annual Social Ministry Gathering, Feb. 28 through March 3. The event was cosponsored by the U.S. Catholic Conference Department of Social Development and World Peace, the Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and Roundtable, a Catholic social justice forum.

You have come at a crucial moment," John Carr, secretary for the USCC's Department of Social Development and World Peace, told the leaders as they prepared to lobby legislators. "We can make a difference as we carry our values and experiences to elected leadership."

Carr commended President Clinton's new initiatives to help poor and vulnerable children and families. "The president's plan appears to offer priorities and directions consistent with Catholic social activists' concerns for poor children and families," he said.

One conference participant, Ursuline Sister Joan Hart, said this year's gathering has taken on a new impetus not seen in previous meetings. She said that the mood in the capital is more hopeful and that there is more consensus among Catholics on a common agenda. "The voices of 54 million Catholics should have more impact," said Hart, social justice director for the Wilmington diocesan Catholic Charities.

Others agreed that there is an air of optimism not witnessed in previous lobbying efforts. Mary Ann Baudouin of Catholic Charities in New Orleans said this is "the first time in our professional careers when the uphill battle is not quite so steep."

Baudouin, with eight delegates from Louisiana, said they were focusing their lobbying efforts on obtaining full funding for Head Start and Women, Infant and Children programs.

Other key issues the social ministry leaders put before legislators included calls for universal health care, welfare reform and community and economic development, especially in urban areas.

Much emphasis was placed not only on the needs of children in this country, but also on those abroad. James B. Burke, director for International Affairs for Catholic Relief Services in Chicago, said that, although it is of great urgency to tend to the poor, vulnerable children in the United States, "we cannot forget the children worldwide."
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Title Annotation:Catholic Social Ministry Gathering
Author:Vidulich, Dorothy
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Mar 12, 1993
Words:384
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